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Garnett is ready for action

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 7, 2010

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WALTHAM — Doc Rivers getting Kevin Garnett to take a day off is a matter of getting the stars and the moon to align.

“We live on the planet of Doc Rivers,’’ Garnett said, “and on that planet, you sit out some days and get rest.’’

Getting Garnett to sit Tuesday to rest a mid-foot strain that he sustained in the Game 2 win over Cleveland Monday night was typically difficult.

In the second quarter of that game, Kendrick Perkins crash-landed into Garnett’s foot trying to swat away an Anderson Varejao layup. Garnett played through the pain, going 33 minutes and drilling a 19-footer that finally chilled Cleveland in the Celtics’ 104-86 win. But the flight home didn’t help matters.

“Got on the plane and it blew up on me,’’ Garnett said.

Perkins would walk away with a strained right knee. But what helped was the world’s universal healer: time. Having three days between Game 2 and Game 3 left the Celtics with enough time to get Garnett both rest and treatment. Yesterday, Garnett and Perkins were back on the practice floor, and they both will play in Game 3 tonight.

Having Garnett at full strength is crucial for the usual reason — his presence as an emotional leader, especially on defense — but also because of the matchup with Antawn Jamison, whom he’s dominated through two games.

The Celtics have fed Garnett more than anyone in the series; he has taken a team-high 41 shots, and has feasted for 18 points and 10 rebounds in both games. His aggressiveness is a must, even if it goes against his selfless nature.

“We just need him to be aggressive,’’ Perkins said. “We need Kevin to be Kevin. We feel like he’s got a great matchup against Antawn Jamison on the block. So we’ve just got to keep going at it and making him keep being aggressive. When he’s not shooting, he’s hurting the team.’’

Garnett went 9 for 20 in Game 1 and 8 for 21 in Game 2.

“We want Kevin to be more aggressive,’’ Rivers said. “I told him 20’s not enough.

“The more we can go to him, good things happen. It makes the other team make a decision — one on one, are they going to front him or are they going to back him? So it allows us to stress our offense more when Kevin is involved.’’

Of course, there’s no one on the roster more willing to make the extra pass than Garnett. He can be selfless to a fault.

“He’s so pass-conscious that even today in practice, guys on the team were yelling, ‘Shoot the ball!’ ’’ Rivers said. “We’ve got to keep that in his mind.’’

Earlier in the year, Garnett was passing up shots out of hesitance, unsure whether he was physically able to make the plays he wanted to after offseason knee surgery.

“Now he can,’’ Rivers said, “and he’s still in that other mind-set.’’

The Cleveland series has given Garnett a chance to jog his memory. He has been on the glass, he has gathered put-backs, he has strung together spin moves in the post and strong finishes around the rim.

“As long as he’s getting his shot, that’s all we tell him,’’ Rivers said. “We thought there were three or four times in the last game that he had his shot and he passed it up. Whatever it is, we want to get him to his shot.’’

The threat Garnett poses is that even when his shots aren’t falling, the Cavs send two defenders his way on the post. As long as he attracts that attention, Rivers will continue to send the ball his way, knowing that he has the ability to find open shooters.

“We have a matchup and we like him to be aggressive scoring early and often throughout the game,’’ Ray Allen said. “Then, the rest of the game kind of opens up to us.

“Kev’s a great passer. As long as we don’t clog the paint up and make sure that all the guys stay spaced, we should be pretty good.

“He tries to pay attention to the game and what the game is dictating. He’s just never been one of those guys that’s been overly selfish with the ball. Once he knows a double-team is coming, he keeps his head up and he knows where the open guy is.’’

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